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HomeSpecialsExpert EditorialsEXPLAINED: What a Joe Biden Presidency Could Mean for U.S.-India Relations

EXPLAINED: What a Joe Biden Presidency Could Mean for U.S.-India Relations

Democratic candidate Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. on November 7 triumphed over incumbent Donald Trump to be elected as the 46th President of the United states, along with Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

But It is not just the US that the election of a new president affects. For days, people in India & around the world have been glued to the White House race. As the new leader in the White House will reshape the nation’s (here the U.S) relationship with countries around the world.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi maintained good relations with Trump, it is expected that with Biden as the new president of the US, New Delhi’s relation with Washington would become more transparent and solid.

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As It is to be noted that even when he was Vice President in the Barack Obama administration, Biden had advocated a stronger relationship with India.

In fact, in 2006, three years before he became the Vice-President of the US, Biden announced his vision for the future of US-India relations: “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States,” he had said.

Will Joe Biden be good for India? This is something every Indian wants to know. And there is no denial to the fact that many Indians wanted Joe Biden to win the 2020 US presidential election.

Here is what his stance could be like in some key areas, based on his past record and statements.

Dealing with the dragon

Under Trump, the U.S. and India signed three agreements for closer military cooperation, seen by many analysts as a common recognition of an increasing threat from India’s northern neighbor China.

Tensions between India and China escalated significantly in 2020. Majorly, due to the military standoff between the troops of both countries along the disputed border, which hasn’t yet seen any solid grounds to be ironed out. 

The escalation came at the same time as consensus in the U.S. was hardening against China- a state of affairs that appears unlikely to be different under a Biden administration from what they currently are.

Though, Biden is officially yet to clarify his stand on the India-China border issue.

Michele Flournoy, a supposed front-runner for the post of US Defense Secretary in the event of a Biden victory, has already warned (in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee Future of Defense Task Force) of a US-China conflict “if the Chinese leadership were to miscalculate the ability or willingness of the United States and our allies to respond to provocations or outright aggression.”

A Biden presidency may also yield the return of the US to the World Health Organisation and the Paris Climate Accord, both of which will be welcomed by India.

Immigration & H-1B Visa System

In June, President Trump suspended H-1B visas through the end of the year.

The H-1B visa is a work permit that allows foreign workers to go to the United States and work for American companies. Wherein, almost 75% of all H-1B visa holders in the U.S. are from India.

“Discussions over work visa programs like the H-1B have been a significant component of U.S.-India ties at-large,” says Kashish Parpiani of Mumbai’s Observer Research Foundation.

Biden had repeatedly maintained during his election campaign that his administration will reform the H-1B visa system by eliminating the restrictions on employment-based green cards for Indians. It means that Biden may lift Trump’s freeze.

“The expansion of the H-1B program is not going to be the initial priority, especially because Biden will be inheriting the job losses that have happened in the coronavirus pandemic,” says Kashish Parpiani of Mumbai’s Observer Research Foundation “The odds of Biden taking that up and enthusiastically expanding that program are slim.”

Human rights in Kashmir

India has long maintained that the situation in Kashmir, which both India and Pakistan claim as their own, is a domestic issue, not for mediation by outside powers.

While President Trump has shown little interest in broaching the issue of human rights and religious freedom, Biden may be more vocal in his appraisal of India’s internal matters, judging by their public statements and policy documents.

“In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir,” says Biden’s Agenda for Muslim Americans, published on the campaign’s website. 

Harris has been even more outspoken. “We have to remind Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world,” she said in October 2019, when she was a candidate in the Democratic primaries. “There is a need to intervene if the situation demands.”

Impact on the Indian economy

There are several ways in which the US economy, its health and the policy choices of its government affect India. Let us look at some. 

The facts dictate that In 2019-20, India exported goods worth $53 billion to the US — that’s roughly 17 percent of all Indian exports that year — and imported goods worth $35.7 billion in return — that’s roughly 7.5 per cent of all Indian imports. Apart from trade, the US is also the fifth-biggest source for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India. 

So on trade, Biden is likely to be less obtrusive than the current Trump administration. As under Biden, India’s trade with the US could recover from the dip since 2017-18.

Further, the Trump administration’s stringent sanctions on Iran severely limited India’s sourcing of cheap crude oil.

For India’s economic push, a normalisation of US-Iran relationship (and lifting of sanctions) would be more than useful, as it needs a regular supply of cheap oil to grow fast.

Penned by Tanishq badliwal. Views personal.

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TFV NewsDesk
Straight via the newsdesk of editorial team.

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